Anyone who has ever parked a car on the streets of New York City knows the drill. You finally find what looks like a curbside space -- but wait, what's that jumble of signs? From the window of your slow-moving car, they look like they're written in Sanskrit as they lay out the complicated ground rules for stopping, standing and parking. You take your best guess and park, knowing that a miscalculation could cost you north of $100, or worse, get your car towed.
For generations, the New York City Department of Transportation has reveled in such mysteries as it rakes in the revenue -- or so more than a few frequently fined drivers would like to believe.
But now the agency is doing something commendably different. It is redesigning the signs. With fewer words, their meaning is clearer, and with better graphics, they're easier to read.
The old signs were a "cross between an Excel spreadsheet and a totem pole," says Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn. In the initial rollout, the department is replacing 6,300 of them.
Of course, the DOT will hold on to some of its vaguer terms, like "no standing."
What does this direction actually mean? According to the DOT website: "You may not wait or stop to load/unload packages or merchandise at curbside," but you may stop to "expeditiously drop off or pick up passengers."
This gives the ticketer and ticketee room for a nice, big argument. The city has always known how to change without losing its character.